Metro-North riders soon might be able to ditch paper tickets and instead purchase fares on their mobile phones through an app.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Wednesday that it is launching the pilot program next month in the hopes that the e-tickets will speed things along, eliminating the need for conductors to punch tickets or count change as they move from car to car.
Select riders can purchase tickets at any time using their mobile phones, and can use their phone screens to display the digital tickets to conductors.
"We are as excited to begin testing the next-generation ticket-selling technology as we were when we introduced ticket vending machines a quarter of a century ago," Metro-North president Howard Permut said in a statement.
"The latest test is intended to ensure that the newest technology will be equally easy to use, as well as secure and reliable," Permut said.
The pilot program will begin with tests among Metro-North Railroad employees and will move to a phase involving select customers if the initial tests are promising, said Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
There's no firm deadline for completing the pilot program, she said, and mobile tickets are one of several options the MTA will explore as part of a "long-range goal" to increase efficiency and convenience for riders.
With the pilot program, the agency, together with mobile ticket company Masabi U.S. Ltd., will also test anti-fraud measures. Conductors will have the ability to scan bar codes on the e-tickets with handsets, allowing them to verify whether a ticket is valid, officials said.
For the pilot program, users will be able to access iPhone, Android and BlackBerry versions of the application, according to Masabi. The application works on devices of various generations so that riders who haven't upgraded to smartphones also can download the app.
Users can buy tickets equivalent to their paper counterparts, the MTA said, including one-way, round-trip, 10-trip and monthly tickets. Riders can use credit or debit cards for the purchase.